Kathleen Tracy | HealthGreatness

There was a time when the medical community viewed chiropractic treatments as one step removed from snake oil salesmen. No longer. While it’s well-known that regular chiropractic treatments can ease common aches and pains, adjustments have proven beneficial for a wide-range of conditions and illnesses including breast cancer. As a result more and more doctors are encouraging their patients to complement their medical regimen with chiropractic treatments.

Chiropractor using a plastic model to explain to her patient.

At the Cancer Centers of America, considered a pioneer in integrative care, chiropractic services are incorporated into their patients’ cancer treatments as a matter of course. Each of CTCA’s five regional hospitals has chiropractic practitioners working on teams alongside surgeons and oncologists.

In general, chiropractic treatments focus on injuries or dysfunction related to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems that can affect overall health. When the nervous system is free of interference from misalignment in the spine, the body’s functions can be carried out at optimal levels. In addition to manual adjustments, chiropractic physicians use massage and other techniques to bring the body into balance.

CTCA’s integrated model has influenced the way many oncologists approach their patients’ experience by addressing the often harsh side-effects of cancer treatments and their effect on quality of life as well as treating the disease itself.

For example, cancer patients undergoing chemo or radiation often suffer from an array of side effects like insomnia and other sleep disorders, depression, and anxiety. Keeping the spinal vertebrae aligned can ease pain and reduce stress, improving both the patient’s physical and emotional well-being.

For some patients, care provided by a chiropractor may also help lessen lymphedema, a common side effect of cancer treatments that is characterized by swollen arms or legs. It’s particularly common in women who have had lymph nodes removed during breast cancer surgery. Chiropractors use massage, wrapping, and specialized exercises that help reduce the swelling and alleviate discomfort.

Chemo can also cause headaches, which can benefit from various treatments such as ultrasound in combination with deep tissue massage to relax painful muscle spasms. Some chiropractors believe a majority of headaches are related to alignment issues so they use spinal manipulation to restore blood flow and proper nerve conduction.

Unlike patients who seek chiropractic treatments to treat whiplash or some other specific injury, chiropractic care becomes part of an overall wellness lifestyle for breast cancer patients. Rick McMichael, former president of the American Chiropractic Association, explains, “Chiropractic is not about getting one visit and you’re fixed. It’s more like therapy or dietary change. It’s a natural approach to improve function, pain levels begin to reduce, and you start to have more energy and feel better generally. Over time, your body resets neurologic pathways, motion becomes more balanced, you function better, and pain levels remain reduced longer.”

One of the more obvious advantages of integrating regular chiropractic treatments is that it may enable the breast cancer patient to avoid having to take additional pain medication that can further stress their bodies. Also, patients receiving chiropractic care report having a more positive outlook, which can be powerful medicine for reclaiming your life from cancer.